FOUNDING THE RVA
A shared vision of transforming over 100 km of river valley into a world-class metropolitan river front integrated park.
Brian Tod, a business lawyer and partner for the Edmonton office of Miller Thomson, initiated the idea of a united river valley park system. In the early 90’s, Brian was President of the Fort Edmonton Foundation, the volunteer funding arm of Fort Edmonton Park. During fundraising efforts he was challenged by fellow board member, Frans Slatter, to consider promoting Edmonton in broader terms. While reading an Edmonton Journal poll that saw readers rank the river valley as Edmonton’s greatest asset, Brian realized that Edmonton has the potential to further develop and link its river valley park system to as far as the communities of Fort Saskatchewan to Devon.
He went to work developing an executive summary of the concept, which was passed along to friends and colleagues. One of these individuals was Gary Campbell, a local business person, who one day happened to be on the same flight as then City of Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith. Gary shared the summary with the former Mayor who decided to make the plan a reality.
In 1996 an ad hoc group of volunteers was formed that eventually included members from the seven municipalities of the Town of Devon, Parkland County, Leduc County, City of Edmonton, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County and the City of Fort Saskatchewan.
A collaborative effort fuels momentum.
Like most grassroots movements, the River Valley Alliance had its growing pains. As Ray Rassmussen one of the original co-chairs explained, there was tension among the region’s municipalities in the early 90’s, fueled by pressures of population growth and a growing divide between urban and rural concerns. Those early years were fairly rough but as momentum continued to grow, attitudes changed and people put their differences behind to support the concept. Ray believes that it was the cooperation of all of the mayors, councillors and volunteers who believed in the potential of the project that helped helped overcome the initial challenges. He also recognizes the leadership of everyone involved and the hard work of municipality members to get support from their communities.
Though many people worked tirelessly in the beginning of the RVA, many of the progress was made through the dedication and work of the following people: Gabriele Barry, Maria David Evans, Barry Anderson, Ray Rassmussen, Judy Duncan, Jim Taylor, Sol Rolingher, Jacquie Fenske, Vern Hartwell, Brian Tod, Anne McLellan, Bruce Bentley, Mark Norris, Bill Smith and Bruce Wilson and many others.
Over two decades later, the initiative has an ambitious Plan of Action with extraordinary potential. Not only can this generation take pride in this grassroots movement, but so too can the generations that follow.
PLAN OF ACTION
In 2007, the River Valley Alliance released a comprehensive Plan of Action. Creating after extensive consultation with RVA stakeholders and the public, its contains maps and detailed information on what currently exists in the river valley and plans proposed by RVA and its municipal stakeholders. This plan still serves as a guideline for the RVA's work today.